Given the costs associated with burials, it is no surprise that the homeless and those living in poverty cannot afford the traditional means of disposition, or have relatives that can claim the remains and cover the costs. Typically, the State takes possession of unclaimed human remains and either donates it to scientific/health purposes or pays for the disposition. However, many states have specific exceptions that do not allow military veterans to be donated to science for dissection. The reasoning behind this exception forbidding dissection of an unclaimed veteran may come from our country’s high reverence for those who have served our country.
This public reverence for our veterans was exemplified recently in Wilmington, North Carolina, when a homeless Marine died and his remains went unclaimed after six months in a morgue. A Marine and former law enforcement officer took charge and claimed the homeless Marine in order to provide him a proper burial. They are presiding over the funeral with Missing in America, a nationwide non-profit corporation whose primary purpose is to identify unclaimed remains of veterans and provide them with a proper burial. This “No Man Left Behind” mindset ingrained into our veterans during their service helps shed light on the public sentiment that likely led to a veteran dissection exception in many states.